48. The Magic Priest and the Kidnapper Gang [Power and Greed]
Buddhist Tales for Young and Old, volume 1, Prince Goodspeaker, Stories 1-50
Once upon a time in Bane’s, there was a king named Brahmadatta. In one of the kingdom’s remote villages, there was a priest who had magical power. He knew a special magic spell which was a secret given to him by his teacher.
This spell could be used only once a year, when the planets were lined up in a certain way. Only then, the priest could say the secret magic words into his open palms. Then he looked up into the sky, clapped his hands, and a shower of precious jewels came down on him.
The magic priest was also a teacher. He had a very good student, who was intelligent and able to understand the most difficult ideas. He was obedient and faithful, always wishing to honour and protect his master.
One day, the priest had to go on a trip to a faraway village, in order to perform an animal sacrifice. Since he had to take a dangerous road, the good student went with him.
Along this road there happened to be a gang of 500 bandits. They were known as the ‘Kidnapper Gang’. They captured people and demanded ransom money in return for letting them live.
Lo and behold, the magic priest and his good student were captured by the Kidnapper Gang. They set the ransom at 5,000 gold coins, and sent the student to go get it, in order to save his master’s life.
Before leaving, the student knelt before his teacher and bowed respectfully. He said to him quietly, so the bandits could not hear, “Oh master, tonight is the one night of the year when the planets will be lined up perfectly. Only then can your magic spell be used to shower you with jewels from the sky. However, I must warn you, my beloved and respected teacher, that to use such a power to save yourself from such greedy men as these would be extremely dangerous. Obtaining great wealth so easily must lead to disaster for men like them. And if you think only of your own safety, bringing such harm to them will cause danger to you as well.
“Therefore, I warn you, do not give in to the desire to make the spell of jewels. Let the lucky night pass by for this year. Even if these bandits harm you, trust your faithful student to save you, without adding to your danger." So saying, he took his leave.
That evening, the kidnappers tied up the magic priest tightly, and left him outside their cave for the night. They gave him nothing to eat or drink.
After the moon came out, the priest saw the planets lining up so his spell could work. He thought, “Why should I suffer like this? I can magically pay my own ransom. Why should I care if harm comes to these 500 kidnappers? I am a magic priest. My life is worth much more than theirs. I care only for my own life. And besides, this lucky night only comes but once a year. I cannot waste the chance to use my great power!"
Having decided to ignore the advice of the good student, he called the kidnappers and said, “Oh brave and mighty ones, why do you want to tie me up and make me suffer?"
They replied, “Oh holy priest, we need money. We have many mouths to feed. We must have money, and lots of it!"
The magic priest said, “Ah, you did this for money? Is that all there is to it? In that case, I will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams! For I am great and powerful. As a holy priest, you can trust me. You must untie me, wash my head and face, dress me in new clothes, and cover me with flowers. Then, after so honouring me properly, leave me alone to do my magic."
The kidnappers followed his instructions. But, not trusting him completely, they hid in the bushes and secretly watched him.
This is what they saw. The washed and flower-covered priest looked up into the sky. Seeing that the planets were lined up in the special lucky pattern, he lowered his head and muttered the magic spell into his hands. They were sounds that no one could understand, something like this: “Nah Wah Shed-nath. Eel Neeah Med-rak. Goh Bah Mil-neeay."
Then he gazed into the sky and clapped his hands. Suddenly he was showered with the most beautiful jewels!
The Kidnapper Gang came out from hiding and grabbed all the precious stones. They wrapped them up in bundles and went off down the road, with the magic priest following behind.
On the way, they were stopped by another gang of 500 robbers. They asked them, “Why are you stopping us?" “Give us all your wealth!" the others demanded.
The kidnappers said, “Leave us alone. You can get all the riches you want from this magic priest, just as we have done. He says magic words, looks up into the sky, claps his hands, and the most fabulous jewels come down!"
So they let the Kidnapper Gang go, and surrounded the priest. They demanded that he make a shower of precious stones for them as well.
He said, “Of course I can give you all the jewels you want. But you must be patient and wait for one year. The lucky time, when the planets are lined up properly, has already come this year. It will not happen again until next year. Come see me then, and I will be happy to make you rich!"
Robbers are not exactly known for their patience. They became angry at once. They shouted at him, “Ah, you tricky lying priest! You made the Kidnapper Gang wealthy, but now you refuse to do the same for us. We’ll teach you to take us so lightly!" Then they cut him in two with a sharp sword, and left both halves of his body in the middle of the road.
The robbers chased after the Kidnapper Gang. There was a terrible bloody battle. After hours of fighting, they killed all 500 kidnappers and stole the wonderful jewels.
As soon as they left the battleground, the 500 robbers began quarrelling over the wealth. They divided into two rival groups of 250 each. These fought another bloody battle, until only two were left alive one from each side.
These two collected all the valuable jewels and hid them in the forest. They were very hungry. So one guarded the treasure, while the other started cooking rice.
The one doing the guarding thought, “When the other is finished cooking, I will kill him and keep all this loot for myself?"
Meanwhile, the one doing the cooking thought, “If we divide these jewels in two, I will get less. Therefore, I will add poison to this rice, kill the other, and keep all the jewels for myself. Why share, when I can have it all!"
So he ate some of the rice, since he was so hungry, and poisoned the rest. He took the rice pot to the other and offered it to him. But he immediately swung his sword and chopped off the cook’s head!
Then the hungry killer began gobbling up the poisoned rice. Within minutes, he dropped dead on the spot!
A few days later, the good student returned with the ransom money. He could not find his teacher or the Kidnapper Gang. Instead, he found only the worthless possessions they had left behind after getting the jewels.
Continuing down the road, he came to the two halves of his teacher’s dead body. Realizing that the magic priest must have ignored his warning, he mourned his cruel death. Then he built a funeral pyre, covered it with wildflowers, and burned the body of his respected teacher.
A little further down the road, the good student came upon the 500 dead bodies of the Kidnapper Gang. Further still, he started seeing the dead robbers, until he counted 498.
Then he saw the footprints of the last two going into the forest. He realized that they too must fight over the treasure, so he followed them. Finally, he came to the dead body slumped over the rice pot, the other one with his head chopped off, and the bundles of valuable jewels. He could tell immediately what had happened.
He thought, “It is so sad. My teacher had great knowledge, but not enough common sense. He could not resist using his magical power, regardless of the results. By causing the deaths of the one-thousand greedy gangsters, he doomed himself as well."
The good student took the treasure back to the village, and used it generously for the benefit of many.
The moral is: When power has no conscience, and greed has no limit – the killing has no end.
INTERPRETER’S INTRODUCTION – BUDDHIST TALES FOR YOUNG AND OLD, VOLUME 1, STORIES 1-50
#Buddhisttalesforyoungandold #Buddhiststories #storiesforkids #moralstories #Buddha #Jatakastories #PansiyaPanasJataka